Know the Symptoms of a Transient Ischemic Attack

Although transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) typically cause no permanent damage, they serve as a serious warning that a stroke may occur in the future. Therefore, medical attention is warranted.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), often called a mini-stroke, produces symptoms similar to a stroke but usually lasting only a few minutes and most often not accompanied by permanent deficits. Sometimes viewed as a harbinger of a future stroke event, a TIA can signal the need for immediate medical evaluation. About one in three people who experience a TIA will eventually experience a stroke with about one-half occurring within one year of the TIA, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

Characterized by symptoms such as dizziness or loss of balance or coordination; weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body; blindness in one or both eye or blurred vision; a sudden severe headache of unknown origin; or slurred speech, TIA symptoms usually resolve in less than one hour. TIAs can result from narrowing of a small blood vessel in the brain, blocking blood flow for a brief period; a blood clot in another part of the body, such as the heart, that breaks off and travels to the brain, blocking a blood vessel in the brain; or insufficient blood flow at a narrow part of a major artery supplying blood to the brain, such as the carotid artery. The risk for experiencing a TIA can be increased by factors such as your age, particularly being over the age of 55, gender, with men having a slightly higher risk than women, and family history, with a relative who has had a TIA or stroke. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol also increase the potential for suffering a TIA.

If you or a family member experiences symptoms consistent with TIA, it’s crucial to seek medical help immediately. A delay in diagnosis and treatment can have serious problematic consequences. Diagnostic tests may include a computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, or carotid ultrasonography. After the cause of a TIA is determined, treatment involves correcting the abnormality and preventing a stroke. Treatment may include medication to reduce the possibility of blood clots or a remedial surgical procedure.

Making judicious lifestyle choices can help to reduce the possibility of experiencing a TIA. Choosing to exercise regularly, stop smoking, maintain a healthy diet, control your weight, and limit alcohol intake can help to combat the potential for experiencing a TIA. If you experience symptoms characteristic of a TIA or if you have had such an experience and were unaware that it was likely a TIA, it’s important to contact your provider as quickly as possible.

Author
Ithaca Primary Care

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